Monday, June 1, 2015

Support for Vines by Rebecca Anderson

Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension

Colorado’s summer sunshine really makes the squash, cucumber and melon vines take off in the garden. One way to keep them from taking over is to train them to a trellis before they get too big. Besides helping manage space, produce harvested from trellised vines is cleaner and, in the case of cucumbers, straighter than ones grown on the ground. Varieties that have fruit that matures at less than 3 pounds are the easiest to trellis. Some larger varieties can still be grown vertically, but will require some extra support.  
A trellis is constructed from two basic components: upright supports with a grid in between.  Supports can be metal or wooden stakes or posts driven into the ground, spaced 5 to 6 feet apart. There are a variety of plastic and wire meshes available at garden centers and hardware stores that can be stretched between the supports for the vegetables to climb.  Place the trellis alongside the vines and every 3 or 4 days weave new arms of the vines through the mesh to encourage them to grow in the desired direction.  Watch for developing fruit as the vines grow, so it doesn't get caught inside a section of the mesh.  The squash and cucumbers will grow to fill the space and incorporate the mesh, making them difficult to harvest without damaging either the produce or the mesh. 

Melons and squash weighing more than 3 pounds can be trellised, but their fruit require more support as they mature. Make slings out of strips of fabric 3 to 4 inches wide tied to the mesh of the trellis.  Don't stretch the fabric tight. Cut it long enough so it forms a cradle for the fruit to rest in as it grows. Very large vegetables like full-sized watermelons and pumpkins are not good candidates for trellising. The fruit weighs too much and will “slip” from the vine and will fall to the ground before it is ripe.

There are a plethora of trellising information and design suggestions available with a little research.  I found the article Trellises and Cages to Support Garden Vegetables from the University of Minnesota Extension very helpful.  A little planning and building of trellises that are as simple or elaborate as you like can lead to a more productive garden space.  Happy vertical gardening!